Tag Archives: Past tense

Rule #5 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #5

5: Pairs of adjectives are exponentially worse than single adjectives. The ‘big, old’ man walked slowly towards the ‘tall, beautiful’ girl. When I read a sentence like that, I’m hoping he dies before he arrives at his destination. Mind you, that’s probably a cue for a ‘noisy, white’ ambulance to arrive. Wailingly, perhaps!

I think this is pretty much self-explanatory.  I know I have done this, but usually to create a mood, and definitely in moderation.

For instance, a character in a deep, dark dungeon.  Miles took a slow, calculated step.  Yes, in each case you could delete one, but there is a mood set with the use of two, right.  BE CAREFUL THOUGH.  Use this extremely sparingly.  (Ha!  That’s two “ly” words in a row)

Take a look through your manuscript.  Where have you used double adjectives and had it work well?  Where did you smack yourself upside the head and delete one (or more) adjectives?



The best dang book I’ve ever read with such a Sh*tty beginning

If you are looking for the Spooky Halloween blog hop, click HERE

Ha!  Nothing like letting it all out in the title.  Note to self … never write a book review when you’re in this kind of mood… but I am in this kind of mood, and I already started, so here we go…

Today, we’re going to talk about the YA novel Crux, by Julie Reece.  Now for starters, I am going to openly admit that Julie Reece is the author I spoke about several months ago who jumped out of the Scribophile world and offered to help me when I needed a beta reader for Last Winter Red.  Will this skew my review?  (I think you know me better than that by now.)  I can honestly say I’ve never met Julie Reece, and wouldn’t know her if I tripped over her in a Wal-Mart.  So, no… no problems there.

So this is the deal.  I picked up Crux for two reasons.  #1:  Awesome cover.  Totally love it and I’ve made a note to find out who the cover artist is, ‘cause it stopped me dead in my tracks several times.  Brilliant cover in my opinion.

The second reason this moved up in the ranks of my “to read” list is because the author is uber nice, and really helped me out when I was in a bind.  (It’s that marketing think I’ve been talking about)

So, the basics…

This was written in first person “I” which I’ve subtracted a cookie for in the past, but I’m going to stop doing so now because I’m starting to see first person written well.  Crux is no exception.

Tense:  This was written in present tense.  Ugh!  Sorry, Ms. Reece, but it drove me a little batty.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  She did it well.  Once I got used to it the tense was okay.  The problem is I needed to “get used to it” every time I started reading the book.  I’m not sure why this is, and I am willing to admit that it could just be me.  Within a page of reading every night, I was swept away by the story and forgot the tense… but since it jarred me every time I picked up the novel, I need to subtract a cookie.

Were there any explosions?  Yes!  Well, no… Ummm… sort of.  Geeze!  I’m gonna say yes.  It wasn’t really an explosion, but it had to do with a whole bunch of water and it was uber-fun.  Loved it!  I will let this fall into the explosion category and give her the extra cookie for it.  (I can’t tell you what happens with the water or it will be a spoiler)

Okay, so starting with five cookies, she dropped to four and then hopped back up to five for the modified explosion.  Here we go:

The Oreo Cookie concept… Start with the crunchy goodness, dig into the gooey bad stuff, and end on a crunchy good note

The top of the cookie:

Crux is a wonderfully imaginative story, completely original with kick-but characters that are wonderfully easy to relate to (right down to the dog)  Even the bad guy is the sleazy gotta-love-him type.  There is a strong romantic plotline and the attraction between Grey and Birdie is both completely believable, and undeniable.  This is probably the most cleanly written relationship I have EVER read.  There was no doubt in my mind, for a single second that the characters were attracted to each other, and acted the way the way they did…

… and Grey… DANG.  For the first time ever I can understand how women can swoon over a guy from a book.  I don’t know if she just hit on exactly the type of guy I like or what… but his “package”  (tee hee) has more to do with his actions and personality than his looks.  Awesome Character.

Birdie, the female lead is a great “kick butt” chic.  She comes from a troubled past, doesn’t think of herself as strong, but all of the sudden the weight of the world is on her shoulders.  This is a “super hero like” story with a likable and believable teen in the role of hero.

The middle of the cookie:  The bad stuff

I already subtracted a cookie for the present tense, so I won’t go into it again.  There is actually only two other things I have to pick on about this novel because this sucker is CLEAN (not even any typos, come to think of it… I should have mentioned that earlier.


Near the end of the novel, our hero Birdie is holding someone’s hand and “thinking”.  She opens her eyes, and the person who’s hand she is holding is on the other side of the room and walking towards her.  Huh?

I read the passage over and over again, trying to figure out what I had missed.  This bothered me so much that before I wrote this review, I contacted the author and asked about it.  She sent back a marked up version of her manuscript page that clearly showed that when she was “thinking” she was in a flashback, and she was never actually holding the person’s hand at all (At that very moment in time).  It made complete sense to me as I looked at the marked up manuscript pointing out the elements that I’d missed.

However, I went back to my Kindle, prepped with my new information about what I’d missed… AND I READ IT EXACTLY THE SAME WAY I did when I had read it the first, second, third, and fourth time.  Now, I am willing to admit that this may be just because I am a bimbo, but I’m figuring I’m probably not the only bimbo out there.  If the author didn’t point out what I’d missed, and couldn’t explain the passage, I would have subtracted a whole cookie, but for this confusion I need to subtract at least a quarter of a cookie… just to make the bimbos of the world not feel so bad.

Another thing… The beginning.  Ugh.  I really didn’t like it.  I am Sooooo glad that I had already purchased the novel, because if I read the first few pages in a preview, I would have dumped it.  It’s a shame really.  A Kick-Butt novel like this should have a kick-butt beginning… something with more excitement.  Frankly, I was bored and completely uninterested.

When I finished the novel, I actually went back and re-read the beginning, and found it read WORSE than it did the first time.  Mainly it had to do with the character of Jeff, who I really didn’t like or understand the first read.  In the second read, I found everything in the beginning both out of character, and completely unbelievable in the realm of the overall plot. The beginning felt like it was written after the rest of the novel… I have to think that at one time it was written another way, but the author got some bad advice and changed it toooooo… ugh.  I’m gonna pretend the novel starts at the point of Birdie running into the restaurant and meeting Grey and his family for the first time.  That is followed by a KICK BUTT car chase.  From this point on, the novel is an awesome roller coaster ride.  The beginning would have been better taken care of in “gentle” backstory and inner thoughts, in my opinion.

Since many reading Crux might dump this novel before it gets good enough for us action lovers, I need to drop another quarter cookie.

The bottom of the cookie;  Ending on a crunchy good note.

About three quarters of the way through the book, a little light bulb went off in my head.  It had to do with the dog.  When that little bulb blinks for me, it is a do or die trigger for the novel.  I think “If I’m right, it will ruin the entire novel for me”.  As I read the end, my neck muscles tightened, because it looked more and more like I was right… but in the last seconds, what I was dreading didn’t happen.  “Whew” what a relief.  I’m still not completely convinced that I’m not right… but at least it did not ruin this book for me (although it might blunder a sequel if not done well)

The ending was action packed and exciting.  Lots of swords and mayhem and even a few heads getting lopped off for those of you who are in-to that sort of stuff.  It was all done without the gore factor though, and the person doing the lopping was not enjoying it one iota.  Even with the violence, I have added this to the Monomaniacle Middle Grade Reviewer’s reading list, just to see if he enjoys the book as much as I did.

The only minor thing I will mention about the ending, is that I think it could have sewn up just a little faster.  Yes, I know sometimes I complain things sew up tooo fast, but I think this dragged on just a touch too long.  I realize though that the next book was being set up, and a few things needed to be ironed out…. Which is good.

Everything is ironed out… even the minor side plotlines, but a few things are left “kind of open” which leaves us ready for a sequel, without leaving the reader feeling cheated.  Yes, there is an ending, and it is solid.  Nicely done.

So… the verdict is?

We start with five cookies.  She lost one for present tense, but gained one back for the “water-kinda like an explosion” thing.  We lost a quarter cookie for the beginning of the book, and then we lost a quarter of a cookie because I’m a bimbo.  (Sorry, my review, my rules)

So, we have four and a half out of five Oreos for Crux… and a firm place in the top five novels I have ever read, (despite the Sh*tty beginning… which says a LOT about the strength of this story.)

Pick up Crux to research:  Great character development, relationship building, realistic dialog, pacing, and just for an all-around fun read.


By Request: Lay Versus Lie

I have to admit:  this one gets me too.

I think the problem is that everyone out there who tries to explain it goes so stinking in-depth that they just make it more confusing than it needs to be.

I found articles that flung around transitive and intransitive… tenses… participles… Ugh!  Can anyone explain the English Language in ENGLISH, PLEEEEEEAAASE?  I mean, really… I am an English major.  I love words, but you need to be able to write so people can understand what you are saying!    (Sorry, that is a rant for another day.)

Anyway… in translating all these over-worded college professors… this is what I came up with:

A few common parenting faux pas have just reiterated the lay verses lie problem from the time we are children.  I have to admit I do this stuff too, but I am going to try to watch myself from now, on.

(By the way… There is no plural form of “faux pas.”  I thought it looked weird too.  I looked it up to check.)

Common child’s prayer:  “Now I lay me down to sleep”

Since this is in the present tense, it should actually be “Now I lie me down to sleep.”

What do you say to your dog?  “Go lay down.”

Nope.  Start telling them to “Go lie down.”

(I am saying dog there because I realized that I tell my kids to Lie down, but I tell my dog to Lay down.  My kids are hearing it both ways.  Yeah, I’m not screwing them up too much.

I found this spreadsheet on Grammer-Worksheets.com. I think it does a pretty good job of laying it all out (no pun intended.)

Base Form

Past Tense

Past Participle

Present Participle

lie (to stretch   out, recline) lay lain lying
lay (to place, to   put) laid laid laying

Now, do you notice what I notice?  Look at the past tense of “Lie”

Let’s not make it too confusing now!

I wrote a post yesterday saying “As I lay on the table”.  I was reading up on all this and I thought, “Crud, I didn’t lay on the table, I guess I lied on the table.—No, maybe it’s lie.”  I was all ready to go back and change it while I was researching this, until I found this chart.  You can lie down on a table, but two days ago, you lay on the table.  I was actually right the first time.

What I suggest you do if you struggle with this, is copy this chart and print it out.  Tape it to your wall.  When you run into the Lay/Lie conundrum, think:  “Am I reclining or stretching, or am I placing an object somewhere.”

If you place the salt on the table, you lay it on the table. If you are going to bed, you lie down.

Easy enough, right?  Until you switch it to past tense and screw yourself all up anyway.

Ah, the joys of the English Language!

Lesson Five from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Let’s keep it in the past

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

I suppose this doesn’t work for those of you who are trying to write your novel in the present tense.  If you are, personally I have to ask you to stop.  Yes, okay, it is a style thing, but I just can’t get into it.  I’ve read a few passages in present tense, and I always end up feeling tense (as in irate).  To me, past tense is the way to go.  (Of course, maybe I just haven’t read a good one)  Anyway, for those of us writing in the conventional fashion…

This publisher noted that present tense words are okay in dialog only.  In narration, they should be cut.

Now, in the gold mine manuscript, the present tense word was “almost” used as narration.  It was “sort of” an inner thought.  The POV character looked at a big mess, and was thinking about cleaning it up, and the narration said “he’d have to tackle it today.”  Now, I think the problem is that it was set off as narration, not as a complete inner thought.  If it was in italics, like the POV character was actually saying it in his head, it may have been okay (again, this is my opinion here).   But since this writer’s style is to have most of the character’s inner thoughts as narration instead of italic thought, this publisher found the use of “present tense” words to be a problem.

So, in a nutshell… if the narration says:  He’d have to take care of things today.  This is no good.

However, if the same character says out loud, or as an inner thought: “I’ll have to take care of this today.”  That is fine.

That’s a pretty simple one, but it might be one many overlook if they have their inner thoughts as narration.  This can be overcome simply be making your inner though more concrete, and putting them in italics so it is very clear that this is an inner-thought, and not the narration.

Amendment:  Guess what?   I just found one of these in my own manuscript!  In the MC’s POV, the narration says:  – It isn’t cold, like it is here.— Now, this isn’t past tense, but the “here” sounds weird because it is in the narration.  I need to change this into an italic thought, or change the wording to be slightly more detached.  One or the other.  It is basically the same principle.

Happy editing!